Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Have I Gone the Way of the Wedge?

Olympia report electronic

Post-Script: My assumptions about how the print wheel and ribbon motors worked, with encoders providing position feedback to the controller board, proved to be essentially correct, as by addressing their decades-old, oxidized connections seems to have done the trick. Every time I fix a difficult typewriter problem like what this machine had, I on the one hand congratulate myself, while on the other hand think of how long it took me to fix the problem, and that I'd never make a good typewriter repairman if I had to "put food on my family" while doing so. I'm a good tinkerer but would make a poor businessman.

Now that I have the correction tape properly installed and have sourced a supply for ribbons, I feel that this machine is finally back in business, as it was intended. I'm even more impressed with it now than what I expressed in the video earlier this week. After getting the correction system working, I found out it has enough memory to correct the entire current line, one letter at a time (but not the whole word erase or line erase functions of later machines). And you can skip around on that line, picking and choosing what letters to correct. Nice.

As for the keyboard itself, I'm typing this post-script using my 60% keyboard equipped with cherry MX brown mechanical switches, into my Mac mini. But that Olympia typewriter keyboard is almost as good, perhaps a bit softer. However, I'm using the typewriter on a small rolling typing table whose main surface is barely big enough for the girth of the Olympia, leaving no room for my forearms or wrists. I feel if it were placed on a proper desk, so I can support my arms better, it might be even more satisfying. I know for proper ergonomics a person is not supposed to plant their wrists; but I find it pretty comfortable with my computer keyboard setup, as I'm actually planting my entire forearms up to my elbows. Whatever works, right?

It's twenty till eleven PM (that's how we were taught to tell time "back in the day") and I'm suddenly thinking of doing a short video on how I fold typing paper in half lengthwise, to provide me a narrow text column for typing into my blog, while also making for an automatic backing sheet. Maybe. Either that, or get to sleep. Okay, until later.

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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Pushing Up Daisy Wheels

Olympia report electronic Typewriter

Post-Script: Funny how these things fall into your hands; this is what happens when you gain a reputation as "that typewriter guy." I was also gifted a metal folding typing table, which is now being put to use in my office, as cramped as it already was.

As I wrote in this piece, I feel Steve K. of Writelephant blogger fame has been one of the few pioneers exploring these electronic machines from the 1980s and '90s. Another person to credit is certainly Robert Messenger and his Oz Typewriter blog. For certain, these plastic machines mostly don't ring our aesthetic bell like some classic shiny black lacquered, round key manual from the pre-WW2 era does. But these have the distinction of being the front-line typewriters that served up until the very end, when computers took over the task of writing. And they do have their own technological evolution, from machines like this Olympia that were pretty well made and responsive, to the later models with more electronic bells and whistles but less snappy keyboard response. The good news is, a lot of these long-abandoned machines can be acquired for a song and a pittance, much like prior to the manual typewriter revival that started around the mid-aughts. Availability of ribbon cartridges will be an issue going forward, but even today at my local Staples I saw Selectric II and III cartridges, along with those for Royal and Brother electronic machines.

Should I see the need for more type wheels and cartridges, there's also the Swintek dealer to consider, since their machines are indeed rebranded Nakajimas.

Regarding my idea of purchasing a brand-new Swintek, I really was hoping to get one of those clear-bodied prison typewriter models, which would be a neat item to have in one's collection, to go along with one's toothbrush shank and dental floss garrote. :)

Here's a video I put up today about this machine. It's still a bit cantankerous with the intermittent ribbon lift motor issue, but is entirely useable.

PPS: I experimented with my condenser vocal mic in today's video. I'd purchased that some years ago, but never put it to good use until now. I'd first acquired it with the hopes of podcasting, but that's another iron that needs to be reheated. I like that the mic itself doesn't require a battery, although I'm using a Saramonic mic mixer atop my camera, that takes the XLR-type of input from this mic. The gain control on the mixer enables me to crank up the levels sufficient for the purpose. And I kind of like the tabletop mic stand, that frees me from clipping the lav mic to my shirt, which I always forget about when I suddenly want to go get another cup of coffee and end up stressing the mic cord attached to the camera. I know: boring techie stuff, but that's why there's so many YouTubers that like to do gear reviews.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Mr. Smith From Corona

Mr. Smith From Corona
Joe Van Cleave001

Post-Script: Perhaps it's the feverish summer weather (actually, it's been rather nice in the high desert this week), or because it's July and with it comes the commemoration of both the Trinity Test and Roswell. I'd like to think, being the rational person I am, that in 1947 the only nuclear-certified and combat-experienced bomber squadron on the world, the 509th Composite Group, happened to be stationed at Roswell Army Air Base. And over in White Sands they were beginning to test German V2 missiles. So perhaps there's nothing more to it, right?

What else happened in 1947 besides (supposedly) Roswell? How about the National Security Act, that created the CIA and NSA. How about the US Air Force becoming its own military branch. Or the US was (supposedly) "enjoying" a global monopoly on nuclear weapons, that would only last another two years. Lots of changes in a short period of time.

But if you're a sci-fi fan like I am, and also a typewriter nerd, you can't help but notice that Corona typewriters and the town of Corona, NM share a common name. And Corona, NM happens to be near one of the supposed crash sites of the 1947 incident. So, naturally, this story comes together with that in mind. This is becoming a theme for my fiction, what you might call typewriter insurgency fiction. Is that yet a thing?

One thing I love about sci-fi is it doesn't have to be realistic, though in order to be successful it does rely on realistic characters.

This is my entry of Typing Assignment No.18, on the theme of sci-fi. If you're so inclined, write up a one-page sci-fi story on a typewriter and post a scan of the piece to a publically-accessible photo hosting website, then post the link to your image in the comments section of this YouTube video. Deadline is this coming Sunday, July 29. I hope to see your story in the upcoming review video. Until then, keep watching the skies, and be careful out there!

Story first-drafted on SCM Skyriter, completed on Royal QDL.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Typewriter Play

Typewriter Play

Post-Script: There's a lot more to say here about typewriter playing. They are indeed mechanical devices, which for many of us is an immediate inducement for further exploration. A lot of the magic of play comes from the power of words. Words fashioned into sentences have the power to fuel our imagination, through the power of language. Entire imaginary worlds can come into existence through language.

Typewriters are also vintage devices. They are foreign to our common experience, unless you're like me, with various machines sitting around the house just as much for decor as useful writing tools. As newcomers to typewriters, our's is a generation that has to rediscover their magic, their utility, their limitations. In previous generations they were treated pretty much as pragmatic tools for one dedicated purpose - document creation. But that purpose has, by and large, passed them by, supplanted in large measure by word processing. And so these wonderful machines find new usefulness in ways not dreamt of by previous generations. Like street poetry writing, or blogging, or even percussive music. Thus, through play we can find new things to do with these mechanical marvels.

In this recent video I also touched on the importance of copying. Not just for retyping the works of others for practice and inspiration, but as an aid in learning how language is crafted by masters of the art. Austin Kleon has much to say about this, through his wonderful book Steal Like an Artist, and also his blog. Be sure to check out both.

Here's the recent video I made about typewriter play:

Typecast on yellow tracing paper via Royal QDL (a.k.a Adobe Rose)

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

2018 Phoenix Type-In Gleanings


The 2018 Phoenix Type-In was the highlight of my year (so far). Meeting faces both new and familiar, interviewing Typosphere notables, trying out a wide assortment of machines - these are the things that make for fond memories. And also solidifying past relationships, made deeper with more intimate fellowship.

Besides coming away from the event with that combination excited/cozy feeling (and a Smith-Corona Skyriter), I also had a sheaf of typings, gleaned from the plethora of words left upon papers scattered across the tables. I thought little about them until, weeks later, I took the opportunity to study them, only to realize that here were some gems in the raw.


What follows are snippets gleaned from the detritus of the event. I've taken the luxury of permitting these images to be 800 pixels wide, busting the template for the sake of readability.


Post-Script: Some of these snippets are rather obvious - commentary on how the particular typewriter looks, operates and feels. This is normal; all too normal. I've attended enough of these events to become a bit jaded when all I glean are commentaries on how people like certain machines and not others. I suppose there is value in this, reinforcement of one's biases. In all fairness, it is interesting to happen across a comment that disagrees with one's own feelings about a particular machine. Like, how could a person not like a Hermes 3000, even if the carriage return lever is a bit high? Each to their own.

But then there are other typings that are wonderfully evocative of notable 20th century literature. Like the little quote from the beginning of Kerouac's On the Road.

And then there are the more cryptic, mysterious typings. Perhaps foreign to me through my lack of exposure to a depth of literature unfamiliar to me. Or truly original and bazaar. These are what I love, the mysterious notes that makes one wonder...

I culled these clippings from pages filled with the likes of "the quick brown fox." And now they remain as little snippets torn and frayed, yet invaluable. I supposed I'll put them in a folder and stash them away. Maybe I should consider putting out a book, of Type-In gleanings, interspersed with typewriter erotica, gleaming black lacquered paint and shiny round keys. Have Mr. Hanks write the forward. Perhaps. Until then, enjoy.

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Monday, July 09, 2018

Pinhole Grid-Camera Fiddlin'


Post-Script: Here's the YouTube video of this project.

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Monday, July 02, 2018

Typewriter Poet Ashley Naftule

“Adobe Rose” the Royal Quiet De Luxe

Post-Script: I admire talented people like Ashley. I've wanted to try my hand at public typewriter poetry, but have been smart enough to know that it takes more than owning a typewriter. You actually have to be a poet, with a prolific enough imagination to compose on the spot. Not sure I could do that. Perhaps what I need is a training regimen, like give myself a random assignment and half an hour. Do that several times a week, build up my poetry-writing chops. In the meantime, we have real poets like Ashley to keep us satisfied.

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Sunday, July 01, 2018

Skyriting at The Standard Diner

Skyriting at The Standard Diner

Post-Script: I carried the Skyriter in my green shoulder bag that normally holds the blue Webster XL-747; I can easily tell the Skyriter is lighter than either the Webster or my other shoulder bag typer, the Olympia SF. While the wide cloth strap is okay when motor-scootering, I'd prefer the padded computer bag strap I use for the Nekkid Hermes 3000 carrying box. It was a warm day, so wearing a summer shirt and shorts felt pretty good on the scooter.

I've liked eating at the Range Cafe for years, so it's nice to know that The Standard Diner is owned and operated by the same family. While my favorite breakfast at the Range has been their huevos rancheros, made with blue corn tortilla and featuring pinto beans, white cheese and fried/baked potatoes (and ordered with red & green Chile - what we call "Christmas"), The Standard Diner's version has a white corn tortilla, black beans and hash browns. I really loved it, especially mixing both chile sauces into the hash browns and breaking the eggs over it. Yes; you can blame me for your sudden appetite.

Sitting in the high-backed, padded booth, I didn't find the Skyriter's noise especially bad; although I think I grasped a bit of conversation across the room involving the word "typewriter," so perhaps they were talking about me? Hmm...

Regarding this issue of narrow-width typecasting, so as to make the words more prominent on-screen, Ted has mentioned the use of 3-1/8" wide thermal paper as a good medium. I'd like to try it, but will wait until I can find some cheap rolls at the thrift stores; otherwise I'd have to spend lots more money on a 6-pack of rolls, enough paper to probably last me a lifetime. For elite-sized font machines, this range of 3-4 inches seems almost ideal for the purpose.

I also remember reading on their menu that The Standard Diner has an old typewriter back by the restrooms, though I didn't take an opportunity to check it out. Which gives me reason to return once again, perhaps with better video equipment than the little iPod Touch. Even so, perhaps that makes this venue a bit more typewriter-friendly.

Now, regarding motor-scootering. Yes, riding two-wheeled vehicles is intrinsically riskier than being enclosed in a metal cage, especially in today's world of phone-distracted drivers. What would be a fender-bender crash in a car can easily become a trip to the hospital, or morgue, on a motorcycle. Even so, there's a particular enjoyment to riding. Always wearing a helmet is an essential habit, even in hot weather; though I find the helmet keeps the sun off the fair skin of my ears and face; while in the winter it keeps my head and neck warm.

There are also some good defensive driving habits to invoke when riding, that you normally wouldn't consider if in a car. Visibility is a primary issue, especially when passing cars or going through intersections. Staying out of blind spots is something I'm always conscious of, which involves momentary speed changes to put myself in a more visible position relative to neighboring vehicles. Watching a neighboring vehicle's lane position and speed can give you clues as to their intent to suddenly change lanes. Even on such a diminutive vehicle like my Honda PCX-150 scooter, my head height relative to the road is easily as high as a medium-sized SUV. Regardless, when being followed by a vehicle I try to stay in the left side of the lane, so I'm directly in front of them, in their central zone of vision. When passing through intersections where there's a left-turning vehicle in the opposite turn lane, I will adjust my lane position to the right side so they can see me as early as possible. And watching for cars jumping out from side streets is easier if you watch the spoked rims of their front wheels, where you can more easily detect slight rotational motion indicating they're beginning to roll forward. All these are tactics I've learned that help me stay safe.

If I ever feel especially nervous about riding in traffic (which I usually don't, since I learned to ride on scooters in city traffic), I have the advantage, in northeast ABQ, of taking side streets to almost anywhere else in this part of town, like I would if on a bicycle. That is the essential advantage of living in a grid-like city, the network of side streets between major roadways.

Here's the Ted Munk interview video. Stay tuned on my YouTube channel for the upcoming interviews with Ryan Adney and Bill Wahl.

*About downtown Albuquerque. My grandparents' old house in on Edith near Central, just two blocks up from The Standard Diner.

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